The Dreamer Mum - An Interview
“Sometimes, all I want to do is put on Backstreet Boys music on full volume, get a glass of exotic Merlot, and just dance my heart out. But then I realize that I’m a mom of two... So, I put ‘Baby Shark’ instead, with two glasses of Bournvita in my hand and I run behind my kids.”
Shalu Sharma is a blogger with two kids, six tattoos, and thirty-six personalities, who is in search of an ideal world. She identifies herself as ‘The Dreamer Mum’ and is indeed an inspiration. It was a privilege for Covid-19 India Helpline to have had a chance to interview her.
Q1. How have you been juggling between work, home, and kids during the lockdown?
Ans- Initially it was very difficult. 19th March 2020 was the last time I was out in the office, after which I have only been working from home. At first, like everyone else, I also thought that this situation is going to be temporary, so I was looking for temporary solutions and preferred to go for short cuts to solve my problems. When the situation did not improve and it became evident that the lockdown is here to stay for a long time, I started looking for solutions that would be lucrative in the long run lockdown. The first thing I did was to set up a home office by dedicating a definite space for my office desk and equipment. I made sure that I sit on a desk and work rather than following the work from the bed trend. My kids are still very young to operate devices like smartphones, but they can read titbits of information and perform basic tasks. I set up timely alarms for their daily schedule to make sure that they are engaged in some activity while I am busy with my work. Organizing things has made it a lot easier to juggle between all of the responsibilities.
Q2. Did you ever wish that you needed a helping hand during such times?
Ans. Yes definitely. I mean, having two kids at an age where their concentration span is really low, it becomes difficult to manage everything on my own. My work requires me to make phone calls frequently, and that time it would be especially a tedious task to be on call because one of them would either have to go to the loo or need something to eat or have some other issue. So I have to schedule my calls at such a time when I am assured that they will manage on their own. Affording 10 minutes for myself has also become a luxury. Sometimes, even if I want to go for a walk, I can’t leave them alone. Having someone else to help me manage the household would have been a blessing in such unprecedented times. However, I believe that you can either cry or look for solutions, and I focus on finding solutions. I think I have been able to manage everything without a second person, quite well. The positive part is I have some really good friends who are almost an extended family for me. They are just one call away whenever I need them, even if they can’t be present physically, they do provide a lot of support.
Q3. What changes have you seen in yourself due to the lockdown? (Both negative as well as positive)
Ans. The positive changes that I have witnessed in myself during the lockdown would be that I have become more organized. I follow my time table strictly. The negative aspect is the negligence of my health. Because I am playing so many roles simultaneously, I have not really got the time to focus on myself. I have lost a sense of personal balance. Having some more time for my health is something I look forward to.
Q4. How have you been coping with all the struggle?
Ans. As I said, organizational skills have helped in the long run. It is one of the biggest assets that I have earned during the lockdown.
Q5. One of your daughters is on the autism spectrum, how has pandemic impacted that?
Ans. Initially, the first month was very challenging for her. My daughter thrives on schedules and this abrupt change had caused her distress. So, I have to put in extra effort to print out worksheets. I maintain an activity folder for both of them. I have to ensure that she is not experiencing a meltdown. She needs a lot of attention. I try to spend whatever time I get off from work with them. Even if it is just asking them what are they currently doing. Her anxiety and insecurity were disheartening during the first few weeks. But with time she understood what the situation was. Now that she has accommodated to the quarantine schedule, it will again take an extra effort to go back to a normal schedule once all this over.
Q6. Does she take teletherapy sessions? If yes, are they effective?
Ans. No, she is not in therapy right now. She was in music therapy when she was younger. Even at such a young age, she composes her own music. Music gives her a language to let out her emotions, which she otherwise might not express. It is therapeutic in its own way.
Q7. What is your message to other single moms like you have been managing everything on their own?
Ans. I believe that everyone has their own sets of challenges. My simple philosophy is that I always focus on finding solutions. Managing kids and work can be very challenging. In today's world, you don’t even have to work full time. My suggestion is to go for alternative working options. Start a side business. Content writing can be another good option. You can also do an online graphic designing course and start a profession in that field. These options allow you to spend considerably a lot of time with your children. Secondly, it is imperative to have a definite plan. You should know what you are doing when. Your children look up to you, so make sure that you are available for them whenever they need time. It is also important to have a plan B and even a plan C. So that you have other doors open in case plan A fails. Being practical and not letting your emotions overpower can also be beneficial.
Q8. What does your 'me time' look like for the past few months?
Ans. To be honest, I haven’t really got any time for ‘me time’. Nonetheless, still whatever little time I get from the different roles I play, I finally become only Shalu Sharma. I read, write, and vent. I have not really written much, but it is something I am passionate about. I have read a few books and would definitely recommend to others as well: ‘Zero to One’ and ‘Man’s search for meaning’. The first is about entrepreneurship and the second one is about a survival memoir. I personally believe that these two books can be handy for anyone. One should definitely pick them up.
Q9. What is one of the most difficult things about being locked up at home?
Ans. Mental stress has been a big difficulty since day one. I have constantly been eaten up by this fear about what if something happens to me. My kids are very young to take any action. How will they manage? Will someone reach out? Apart from it, I also have the stress of not going out, since I am an extrovert. Regular social interactions were an inexorable part of my life before the pandemic happened. But because of the lockdown, I have not been able to do it for such a long time. I miss going out.
Q10. Have you found anything positive from this unprecedented situation?
Ans. Every situation teaches you something for sure. Here a few things that I have learned-
Financial Aspect- Planning for future finances have become a very integral part of my life now. Adjusting costs is very important, and to manage the budget effectively with all the resources available at your hand is something that I have become good at because of this situation.
I have developed a greater sense of gratitude for everything. These times have taught me to be grateful for everything I have n my life.
I have got a lot of time to stay with my kids, despite me being on my laptop or phone, I still have them by my side which is a great thing.
You can read her works here- https://thedreamermum.com/
By - Sanjana Nagar Graphic courtesy of Shalu Sharma